In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in southeastern Turkey, many in the cryptocurrency industry have sought a crypto wallet address to donate to, following the examples of India in 2021 and Ukraine in 2022.
But Turkey’s 2021 ban on crypto as an everyday currency in payments discouraged the Turkish crypto community from starting a fundraiser, Baki Er, Turkish co-founder of crypto research platform Lytera, told DL News. There was a fear that donations would count as payment and would be illegal, he said.
The tide quickly turned when well-connected Turkish rock star Haluk Levent personally took the matter to the government.
Levent, who also heads non-profit Ahbap and is currently involved in the rescue efforts in the eathquake region, asked his 6.9 million followers in a poll yesterday whether he should push for crypto donations since “many in the world are asking to donate in crypto.” The poll received nearly 1 million votes, as of this writing, with 82% supporting the idea.
After consulting the government’s financial watchdog MASAK, Levent said, he received approval to accept crypto donations for one week.
Crypto wallet addresses, set up in various blockchains such as Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain, received more than $2 million in various cryptocurrencies within a few hours of his announcement. Avalanche Foundation, headed by Turkish-American Emin Gün Sirer, has donated $1 million.
Blockchain explorer Etherscan has labelled the wallet on Ethereum as “Ahbap Yardım / Earthquake Support” to distinguish it from scammer wallets. Ethereum is permissionless, meaning anyone can set up a crypto wallet and solicit transfers. No central authority may revert blockchain transactions.
Crypto donations are tax-efficient in most jurisdictions since donors don’t have to sell crypto for fiat, and can instead transfer 100% of the value to the recipient. They’re also fast and low-cost, allowing for near-instant transfers from anywhere.
The death toll in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck near the city of Gaziantep has risen to nearly 5,000, with more casualties expected as search and rescue efforts continue for those still trapped beneath the rubble. This is the largest earthquake to hit the region in eight decades.